Recent Rebrands Show that Crypto is Growing Up

“The crypto industry is currently going through a process of gentrification as it prepares for a wider audience.” "What crypto needs is to win the story wars."

Source: iStock/severija

Rebrands are tricky. Coca Cola disastrously rebranded itself as 'New Coke' in 1985, forcing lovers of its original formula to launch a campaign calling for the immediate return of its old branding and taste. Other rebrands in recent memory – Gap, MasterCard, Tropicana – have been no less shambolic, creating the impression that companies shouldn't really ever take the plunge.

Meanwhile, in cryptoland, the likes of Kraken, ShapeShift, Zcash Company, and Litecoin have rebranded in recent months, while other projects – such as RailBlocks/Nano and Antshares/NEO – have done something similar over the past year or so.

Such moves vary in terms of how much rebranding is involved. Nonetheless, they all indicate that crypto is maturing, and that the industry is making increasingly concerted efforts to entice mainstream customers.

Signs of maturation

It's no secret that 2018 was something of a comedown for the industry after the dizzying highs of 2017. This is a large part of the reason why, in 2019, many crypto-related companies and projects have turned to rebranding, since it’s one obvious strategy for increasing the willingness of investors and the general public to adopt crypto.

"One would be forgiven for thinking that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were doomed after the hype of 2017 subsided and we entered the current bear market," says Simon Dingle, a Bitcoin analyst and author of In Math We Trust: The Future of Money.

"However, nothing could be further from the truth," he tells "Bitcoin is alive and well, and great progress has been made on the project since the beginning of 2018. The network has actually grown in terms of computing power during this time, and great progress has been made in protocol scaling solutions like the Lightning network, which now has an order of magnitude more nodes connected than at this time last year"

Despite this growth, Dingle acknowledges that somethings needs to be done not only to encourage greater adoption, but to counter the negative perceptions surrounding crypto.

"There is a still a general misunderstanding of cryptocurrency in the mainstream, and misinformation being spread about, for example, Bitcoin's use of electricity - but the war is being won behind the scenes," he says. "It now faces the challenging gap between early adopters and mainstream adoption, and is on course to leap over this chasm in style."

Meanwhile, Mati Greenspan, a crypto analyst at eToro, tells that the recent wave of rebranding is largely about overcoming the negative stereotypes surrounding crypto.

“The crypto industry is currently going through a process of gentrification as it prepares for a wider audience,” he says. “Since inception crypto has had a negative stigma attached to it, but this perception is changing rapidly in large part thanks to work being done on the ground by these companies and others in the industry.”

This is why Kraken and ShapeShift, to take two of the most prominent examples, have recently rebranded. Both exchanges are taking steps to comply with regulations and to make themselves more customer-friendly, while Simon Dingle affirms that their recent redesigns are indicators of a maturing industry.

"Crypto companies in general are maturing and many are refocusing on mainstream markets, whereas until now they were only preoccupied with early adopters of the technology," he says. "ShapeShift, for example, has implemented know-your-customer (KYC) processes for the first time to prepare for scrutiny from authorities. Kraken has developed a more consumer-friendly brand as it hopes to broaden its appeal in the consumer market."

Changing perceptions

As useful as rebrands may be for any company that wants to symbolically turn a corner, more obviously needs to be done if the industry wants to enjoy greater adoption. Perhaps most importantly, Simon Dingle believes that the industry needs to get better at managing its media relations, as well as its relations with regulators.

"What crypto needs is to win the story wars," he says, noting that it's often not the 'best' technology that earns widespread adoption, but rather the technology that provides the best narratives.

"Right now Bitcoin is a story of freedom and hope - one only needs to look at how it is being used in Venezuela to get a taste of this - but it is also poorly understood in mainstream media where many people lost money in 2018, and there is a misconception that Bitcoin "wastes" electricity. Crypto companies need to offer better stories, acknowledge what the market is telling them, and work harder to win hearts and minds."

However, past years have shown that crypto hasn’t always been successful when it comes to PR, with various exchanges and projects (e.g. Kraken, IOTA) notably having acrimonious spats with certain news outlets.

And in addition to better public relations, Mati Greenspan affirms that the industry will also have to improve its end product, which in many cases needs to offer better user experiences.

“There's still a lot of work to be done,” he says. “Specifically on making interfaces more user-friendly and on education, both of which will need to improve drastically for the industry to maintain its current rate of growth.”

These are big challenges, but as recent efforts to rebrand all indicate, the industry is serious about meeting them. And with the ongoing influx of institutional investors into crypto, and with ongoing efforts to make blockchains more scalable, it just might.